Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)

Album: American VI: Ain't No Grave (2010)

Songfacts®:

  • Four years after 2006's American V: A Hundred Highways came this sixth and final collaboration between Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin, the producer who founded the American Recordings label on which the Man in Black made his late-life comeback. Cash had just buried his wife, June Carter Cash, and was in poor health when he recorded American VI: Ain't No Grave. The ten tracks are drenched in mortality, but Cash's strong Christian faith meant he had no fear, as he sung, "Ain't no grave gonna hold my body down." Rubin explained in a statement: "Johnny said recording was his main reason for being alive. I think it was the only thing that kept him going. He didn't have any fear and he was already dealing with pain. He had acceptance. When he knew he was going to die, he was calm and matter-of-fact about it. That was it."
  • This song was originally written and recorded by "Brother" Claude Ely (1922 – 1978), who was a religious singer-songwriter and a Pentecostal Holiness preacher. He was the first Pentecostal Holiness recording artist to be signed to a major recording label for strictly sacred music and songs. It was Rubin who suggested to Cash that he covered the track.
  • Cash's cover features Scott and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers on banjo and footsteps.
  • American VI was released on February 26, 2010. It was timed to coincide with what would have been Cash's 78th birthday.
  • The song provided the soundtrack to a trailer for the 2017 movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
  • Rick Rubin recalled Cash's recording of the song in a Genius attribution:

    "I played him a lot of old songs, like 'Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down).' I think I played it to him from an old field recordings collection. We were going to do an album of black spirituals, so I did a lot of research and played him a lot of stuff for that.

    There were six versions of 'Ain't No Grave,' and they were all different. His voice was deteriorating over the process, and that became an interesting character in it.

    The last one is kind of hard to listen to. It's very beautiful but the combination of where his voice is at and the lyrics being so sad, it's hard to take."
  • Tom Jones recorded the song under the title "Ain't No Grave" just a few months after Johnny Cash's version was released. The Welsh singer's bluesy rendition can be found on his Praise and Blame album.

Comments: 4

  • Robert from Pennsylvania I have take my hat off to Rick Rubin for bringing this to John it is such a great version. Unforgetable.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaNo one can do this song like Russ Taft. Saw a video of him performing this in Ireland and I was jumping in my seat, as the audience just sat there. It was THE BEST.
  • Kelsey from Lincoln, NeJoel, good call on the Jim Morrison comment. Would have been very interesting to hear him record that.
  • Joel from Columbia, ScCool song. I'm not sure but I think this song was featured at the end of an episode of the vampire horror program "True Blood". It also would have been perfect for somebody like Jim Morrison since it just has that kind of vibe.
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